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Many of our members have suggested “they just can’t lose weight as a result of their slowing metabolism.”  Metabolism is quite the buzz word and is typically misunderstood in the context of weight management.  So what is metabolism and is metabolism really the culprit? If so, is it possible to rev up your metabolism to burn more calories?

It’s true that metabolism is linked to weight, but contrary to common belief, a slow metabolism is rarely the cause of excess weight gain.  Although your metabolism influences your body’s basic energy needs, it’s your food and beverage intake and your physical activity that ultimately determine how much you weigh.  Metabolism is the process by which your body converts what you eat and drink into energy.  During this complex biochemical process, calories in food are combined with oxygen to release the energy your body needs to function.  Even when you’re at rest, your body needs energy for all its functions, such as breathing, circulating blood, adjusting hormone levels, and growing and repairing cells.  The number of calories your body uses to carry out these basic functions is known as your basal metabolic rate, what you might call metabolism.  Energy needs for your body’s basic functions stay fairly consistent and aren’t easily changed.  Your basal metabolic rate accounts for about 70 percent of the calories you burn every day.

In addition to your basal metabolic rate, two other factors determine how many calories your body burns each day.  Food processing which includes digesting, absorbing, transporting and storing the food you consume, accounts for 100 to 800 of the calories used each day.  Physical activity and exercise, such as playing tennis, walking to the store, chasing after the dog and any other movement, account for the rest of the calories your body burns each day.  Physical activity is by far the most variable of the factors that determine how many calories you burn each day.

It may be tempting to blame your metabolism for weight gain, but only in rare cases do you get excessive weight gain from a medical problem that slows metabolism, such as Cushing’s syndrome or having an under active thyroid gland (hypothyroidism).  Unfortunately, weight gain is complicated.  Weight gain is likely a combination of genetic makeup, hormonal controls, diet composition, and the impact of environment on your lifestyle, including sleep, physical activity and stress.  All of these factors result in an imbalance in the energy equation.  You gain weight when you eat more calories than you burn or burn fewer calories than you eat.

While it is true that some people seem to be able to lose weight more quickly and more easily than others, everyone will lose weight when they burn up more calories than they eat.  To lose weight you need to create an energy deficit by eating fewer calories or increasing the number of calories you burn through physical activity or both.  Unfortunately there is no magic bullet.  Don’t look to dietary supplements for help in burning calories or weight loss.  Products that claim to speed up your metabolism are often more hype than help, and some may cause undesirable or even dangerous side effects.  There’s no easy way to lose weight.  The foundation for weight loss continues to be based on physical activity and diet.  Take in fewer calories than you burn, and you lose weight.  If you have any further questions regarding metabolism and it’s impact on weight loss please feel free to email us or speak with us in person.